The ruling Labour party in Norway voted to make the buying of sex illegal, according to a report by The Guardian.
Prostitution is currently legal in Norway, although pimping or procuring it is not, but this change in the law would shift emphasis onto those who buy sex for cash. In the capital, Oslo, street prostitution has become more evident in recent years, which has prompted calls for this disallowance.
Labour, along with support from the Socialist Left and Centre parties, hold a combined 87 of the 169 seats in parliament. The party will also received backing from the opposition, the Christian People’s party, which initially proposed the prohibition. The Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, remarked that:
“A majority of parties in parliament wants a ban on buying sexual services…We are going to implement it.”
The opposition Progress and Liberal parties oppose the ban, and the Conservative party is reserving judgement. The Congress of the Labour party, however, was divided, with 184 of the 300 delegates supporting the supposed amendment to the law.
Sweden implemented a similar law in 1999, with proponents claiming that this will reduce the number of those attempting to procure sex for cash, without having detrimental ramifications for the young women who are often forced into soliciting as a means to surivive.
But will penalising the punters be a positive move for these women? Karita Bekkemellem, the Labour party’s minister for children and equality affairs as well as a strong supporter of women’s rights, believes otherwise, remarking, “I don’t think it will help the women.”
What the government is proposing to do is to punish men who attempt to buy sex on the street, but they are not additionally suggesting the implementation of social reforms and financial support to help the women who are selling sex for cash. So, where does it leave these women? Many of them have no other option than to turn to prostitution, either by being forced into the trade by a dominant force, or, since they are lacking the skills needed to get work, use the only commodity they feel they have to financially survive. Their situation will remain unchanged, and the only difference will be that they will be forced underground, making them more susceptible to abuse and danger from the men who use them. So, is this just a case of the law attempting to mask a problem that the government is unable to visibly resolve? It certainly appears that way.